WHAT IS THE CORRECTIONAL SERVICE OF CANADA?

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is the governmental agency with the duty and jurisdiction to administer sentences and house offenders who have been sentenced to two years or more imprisonment, as determined by the court. The Correctional Service of Canada is responsible for managing federal institutions and offenders at various security levels, supervising offenders in the community, and providing programming and services for offenders, victims of crime, communities, and families of both victims and offenders.

The Correctional Service of Canada establishes its main mission, as an agency of the federal government and the justice system, to “encourage public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising safe, secure and humane control.” While CSC offers a variety of programs and services for individuals at various stages of the criminal justice system, its programming for victims has recently been broadened greatly to provide some wonderful new services for victims of federal crimes in Canada.

CSC VICTIM SERVICES: HISTORICAL OVERVIEW & NEW MANDATES

The Correctional Service of Canada has played an important role in the development of victims’ rights and services since the Canadian government’s formal endorsement of the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime in 1988, which was based on the UN Declaration of Basic Principles for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power. As some of the resulting legislation and policy making occurred following this declaration, CSC eventually officially recognized that victims of crime have a legitimate interest in receiving information about their offender, have the right to contribute to the proceedings, and to have access to services.

In 2001, CSC established a unique Victim Services division that would have the responsibility of providing information and services to victims of federal offenders. In 2006, CSC amended the guidelines surrounding the information available to victims to clarify the information-sharing process and outline victims’ and CSC officials’ responsibilities. New funding was allocated to the Victim Services Division, giving victims a more effective voice. A new Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime position was also created in 2007.

Finally, in 2007, CSC launched the National Victim Services Program, which notably created thirty full-time Victim Services Officer (VSO) positions, whose job it was to exclusively respond to requests from registered victims and attend to their needs. The program also aimed to improve services and the provision of timely information, and to increase awareness among victims of the services available to them.

 ACCESSING CSC VICTIM SERVICES

WHO QUALIFIES FOR CSC VICTIM SERVICES?

In order for victims to be fully aware of their options, it is important to define a victim under Canadian law. According to the Correctional and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), a victim is someone to whom harm was done or who suffered physical or emotional damage as a result of the commission of an offense. If the person is dead, ill or otherwise incapacitated then a victim also includes the person’s spouse or an individual cohabitating with them in a conjugal relationship for a period of at least one year, a relative or dependent of that person, anyone who has custody or is responsible for the care or support of the person, and anyone who has custody or is responsible for the care or support of a dependent of the victim.

Anyone who has been victimized by a federal offender (a person serving a sentence of two years or more) is eligible for CSC victim services. Offenders serving a sentence of less than two years will be incarcerated in a provincial jail and will be the responsibility of the provincial correctional authority. Victims of provincial offenders looking for information or services should contact the provincial correctional authority of the province where the offender was convicted or in some cases the Parole Board of Canada (PBC.)

Any person who has been harmed either physically or emotionally by an offender currently under the care of CSC, regardless of whether they were prosecuted or convicted for that offense, may also be eligible to register as a victim and receive information about that offender. Please read the next section for more information.

HOW DOES ONE REGISTER AS A VICTIM?

In order to receive information or access services from CSC, victims must become a “registered victim” by completing and signing a ‘Victims Request for Information’ form, and submitting it to the nearest regional CSC or PBC office. Alternatively, victims can call the victim services office in their region and speak with a Victim Services Officer (VSO). The VSO will ask some questions of them and use the responses to fill out the ‘Victims Request for Information’ form. This completed form along with some information pamphlets will then be mailed to the victim for them to sign and return in the postage prepaid envelope. This will complete the victim registration process.

To receive ongoing information, victims must provide CSC with their current address and phone number. Although this information is kept confidential, many victims might not feel comfortable sharing this information and therefore would prefer to authorize another individual to receive this information on their behalf. This can be done when registering as a victim by filling out section C (‘Naming a Person to Receive Information on Your Behalf’) on the ‘Victims Request for Information’ form. Victims can also authorize a spouse or partner to receive the information by filling out the last portion on the form.

Victims can also complete section D (‘Submission of Statements to be Considered in Decision Making’) which is optional and asks if victims would like to submit a victim statement to CSC and the PBC to consider when they are making decisions regarding the offender. Victims are asked to either attach the statement or submit it at a later time. For more information on victim statements please see the section below entitled “Victim Statements”.

Victims who were harmed by an offender, but for which the offender was not prosecuted or convicted, and who have made a complaint to the police or Crown may also be eligible to register as a victim. This type of victim can register in the same way mentioned above but they must also include in their ‘Victims Request for Information’ form the date that the complaint was made to the police service or Crown. Once registered as a victim, this type of victim will have access to all the same information and services that a victim would have whose offender was convicted and sentenced to federal prison.

A victim’s registration for victim notification does not expire unless the offender dies while incarcerated or under CSC supervision in the community, the offender’s sentence expires and she or he does not receive another federal sentence (although should the offender receive a federal sentence again in the future the victim will be notified and asked if they want to receive ongoing updates), or the victim informs CSC in writing that they no longer wish to receive victim notification information.

INFORMATION THAT CSC PROVIDES TO VICTIMS

WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION ARE VICTIMS ENTITLED TO?

Any victim that is registered with CSC is entitled to receive information about the offender who harmed them. As stated above, a victim may also authorize, in writing, another individual to receive information on their behalf if they do not feel comfortable sharing their contact information.

Once victims have registered with CSC or PBC they will receive an information letter with some basic information about the offender. The letter would include information such as the offender’s name, age, date sentenced on, sentence start date, length of the sentence, crimes s/he was convicted for, and sentence end date. The letter would also provide the victim with the dates the offender would be eligible for temporary absences and parole, as well as descriptions of the different types of absences: escorted and unescorted temporary absences, day parole, full parole, and the statutory release date.

Additional information may be provided as long as the victims’ interest in the information clearly outweighs any invasion of the offenders’ privacy that may result from disclosing the information. Generally however, it is not common for information to be withheld due to privacy concerns. The additional information may include:

  • the location of the penitentiary where the offender is being housed
  • the name of the institution where an offender is being held
  • the offender’s age
  • the date when the offender is to be released on any form of release, temporary absence, or parole
  • the date of a hearing to review detaining an offender past their statutory release date
  •  information about why an offender has waived a conditional release hearing
  •  the conditions attached to any form of release, temporary absence, or parole of the offender
  • the offender’s destination upon any form of release, absence, or parole and whether she or he will be in the area of the victim at any point in his or her travels
  •  the reasons for any temporary absences
  • whether or not the offender is in custody and if they are not, why not
  • the reasons why an offender is transferred from one institution to another, including advanced notice, whenever possible, of transfers to minimum-security institutions
  • the reason for any Unescorted Temporary Absence (UTA)
  • information about the programs in which an offender is participating or has participated; and
  • any serious disciplinary offenses committed by the offender

Information will also be provided regarding their offender’s program participation and serious disciplinary offenses, should the victim choose to receive it, in the form of an annual report.

INFORMATION VICTIMS PROVIDE TO CSC

VICTIM STATEMENTS

The Correctional Services of Canada appreciates receiving feedback from victims pertaining to their safety concerns and the impact of the offense on them, their family and/or the community. This information is used in decisions about an offender’s institutional placement, programs, and recommendations to the PBC for statutory and conditional release.

This information is also especially important to the PBC, who is responsible for determining whether an individual should be released into the community and a relevant release plan that would be appropriate should that occur. In cases where the PBC must decide whether to detain an offender in custody until the end of the sentence, information about the harm victims have suffered as a result of the offense are important factors in the decision-making process. Information from the victim is also used when assessing the offender’s release plans and the conditions required to manage the offender and any risk he or she might pose both to the community and to the victim. This might become relevant, for example, when considering imposing a special condition for the offender not to contact a victim or not to be in the presence of children.

Victims would provide information to CSC or the PBC through a victim statement. A victim statement is a written description of the harm that has been caused by the crime. The type of harm that may be addressed includes financial, physical and emotional. This statement provides an opportunity for the victim to express how the offender’s crime has impacted their life as well as to share any continuing safety risks they feel to be relevant.

To provide a victim statement victims can fill out section D (‘Submission of Statement to be Considered in Decision Making’) on the ‘Victims Request for Information’ form while registering as a victim. Victims can attach the victim statement to the form when submitting it or simply send it in at a later date. Victims who did not choose to submit a victim statement when they registered or who want to update their statement may contact their Victim Service Officer who will help them through that process.

Victim statements are often confused with victim impact statements and it is important to know the difference. A victim statement is used for conditional release hearings, whereas victim impact statements are heard in court at sentencing hearings. The rules of what can be included in a victim impact statement are also much stricter than a victim statement.

If victims choose, they can also present their victim statement at a PBC hearing. To do this, victims must complete and sign a ‘Request to Present a Victim Statement at a Hearing’ form and have it submitted to the nearest PBC office. Assuming the victim qualifies to attend the hearing, he or she must submit the written statement 30 days before the hearing, or if translation is required, 45 days before the hearing date. If the victim so wishes, he or she can present the statement orally at the hearing (it must still initially be submitted in writing), or request that a statement be presented via audio or video tape either while attending the hearing or in their absence.

WHAT INFORMATION GIVEN BY THE VICTIM DOES THE OFFENDER HAVE ACCESS TO?

Many victims are hesitant to begin the process of submitting information to CSC because they are worried that the information they give will be shared with the offender. This is not necessarily the case. However it is important to understand that CSC does have a legal obligation to share any information with the offender that might inhibit their freedom so that they are able to respond to that information and are aware of what is being considered. Therefore any information that a victim provides which may affect the freedoms of the offender (i.e. impact their chance for parole, affect their security level) may be shared with the offender. However, regardless of these rules of disclosure, any personal information about victims, such as address and telephone number, will never be shared with, or be available to, the offender.

VICTIMS VOICE, FEEDBACK

For those wishing to provide additional information to CSC, there is a section on their website entitled “Victims Voice” where victims can share their opinions and experiences with CSC, evaluate the website, and provide feedback on why they may not want to register as a victim. All submissions are anonymous.  Those interested in providing feedback will find a link to the Victims Voice section of the CSC website at the end of this booklet.

HOW CAN VICTIMS WHO HAVE COMPLAINTS BE HEARD?

Victims who are not satisfied with the services they have received from CSC should first address their concerns directly to their assigned Victim Services Officer. If victims are still unsatisfied the next steps are as follows and should be followed progressively:  First contact your Regional Victim Services Manager located in your local CSC regional office; contact the Director of Victim Services at the CSC National Headquarters in Ottawa; and finally, if your complaint is still not resolved, contact the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

 VICTIM SERVICES PERTAINING TO CSC

VICTIM SERVICES OFFICERS

As stated previously, in 2007 a position for a National Victim Services Director as well as positions for 30 Victim Services Officers were created. As a result of these new positions, victims have the ability to deal with staff members whose sole role is to attend to the needs of victims, provide victims with support and information, and provide victims with an avenue for complaints.

VICTIM STATEMENT AND ATTENDING A PAROLE BOARD HEARING

Victims wishing to present their victim statement at a parole hearing must submit a ‘Request to Present a Victim Statement at a Hearing’ form. This must be done at least 30 days in advance of the hearing. Victims may present the statement personally, or have the statement presented on recorded video or audio tape with them either present at the hearing or without their presence. The information victims submit to CSC and the PBC is invaluable in parole related decisions and all victims are encouraged to submit and present victim statements. For more information on submitting a victim statement please refer to the above section entitled Victim Statements.

Parole Board hearings are held for most PBC decisions, such as whether to grant, deny or revoke parole. Victims wishing to attend a parole board hearing must submit an application to do so in advance of the hearing.

Anyone can apply to observe a hearing of the PBC. An application to observe a PBC hearing should be submitted as early as possible to permit a security check. In addition to attending a PBC hearing, anyone interested in a specific case may make a request in writing to the PBC for a copy of a conditional release (otherwise known as parole) decision. Finally, some additional ways victims have become involved in CSC include sitting on a Victim Advisory Committee and/or a Citizen Advisory Committee for CSC, assisting with victim sensitivity training for CSC  staff and victim awareness programs for offenders; and providing input into policy development.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

In November 2005, the Victims’ Travel Fund was created to support victims of federal offenders who would like to attend PBC hearings of the offender who harmed them. The Policy Centre for Victim Issues at the Department of Justice administers financial assistance to aid with travel, hotel and meal expenses in accordance with current Government of Canada Travel Guidelines. A victim may apply for travel funding if they are registered as a victim with the CSC, have been approved to attend a PBC hearing and wish to attend a hearing related to the offender who harmed them either to observe or to present a victim impact statement. After having been approved to attend the hearing, a victim must submit an application for financial assistance at least 30 days before the scheduled date of the hearing to cover various costs including travel costs, hotels, meals, incidentals, cost of transportation and airport surcharges.

VICTIM-OFFENDER MEDIATION AND THE RESTORATIVE OPPORTUNITIES PROGRAM

Victim-offender mediation is a voluntary process for all parties in which a trained mediator prepares interested offenders and victims to communicate and potentially meet in a safe and secure environment. Victim offender mediation allows victims to express to the offender the emotional, physical, and financial consequences of the crime, to explore unanswered questions about the crime and the offender, and potentially participate in developing ways in which the harm can be addressed and restored. The offender is able to gain insight about their actions and the consequences of those actions that may contribute to their accountability and personal growth. The process also encourages offenders to take responsibility for their actions.

In 1989 in British Columbia and the Yukon the Victim Offender Mediation Program began operating. After successfully running in the West for many years the program went national in 2004 with the Restorative Opportunities Program. Today an experienced team of 14 mediators provides services across all Canadian provinces and territories.

The victim-offender mediation process can occur in many different ways from writing letters, phone calls, meeting in person, or video correspondence. What all the different models include however is voluntary participation at all stages, extensive preparatory work, very rigid procedural guidelines and rules in order to ensure the safety of victims and the legal rights of the offender, strict confidentiality in order not to have these procedures affect any court or parole board decisions following the mediation, and highly trained staff.

Victim-offender mediation can be victim-initiated or the victims can be approached to participate as a result of the referral of an offender by institutional staff, community parole officers, police or other victim serving organizations. The victim should, under no circumstances, feel pressured to participate, as it is a solely voluntary program. This of course will all be explained by the Victim Services Officer and/or Restorative Opportunities staff contacting the victim. The process will be guided at all times by an experienced mediator who will be very attentive to the victim’s needs. Victims may stop the process, and revisit their decision, at any time. The mediation aims to provide a voice for victims to tell their story, seek answers, and be provided with extensive support from staff. The victim possesses the power in deciding how this process could unfold. This program is not for everyone, and any victim considering this process should be fully informed about what lies ahead, and should very closely weigh their feelings about this process before making a decision to participate.

For those not interested at all in ever being in contact with their offender, they can ask CSC to prevent all communication.

CONTACT INFORMATION

NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS
340 Laurier Avenue West, Floor 3
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P9
Toll Free Number: 1-866-806-2275

ATLANTIC Region – Regional Headquarters
(NB, NS, PEI, NFLD, & Labrador)
1045 Main St., 2nd Floor
Moncton, New Brunswick E1C 1H1
Telephone: 1-866-806-2275ax: 506-851-6316

QUEBEC Region – Regional Headquarters
(Quebec Only)
3 Place Laval, 2nd Floor
Chomedey, Laval, Quebec H7N 1A2
Telephone: 1-450-967-3680
Fax: 450-967-3454

ONTARIO Region – Regional Headquarters
(East of Thunder Bay & Including Nunavut)
4403 Union Street
Kingston, Ontario K7L 2R8
Telephone: 1-866-875-2225
Fax: 613-536-4730

PRAIRIES Region – Regional Headquarters
(Alberta, Sask., Manitoba, NWT, NW Ontario incl. Thunder Bay)
2313 Hanselman Place, PO Box 9223
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 3X5
Telephone: 1-877-322-5822
Fax: 306-975-5476

PACIFIC Region – Regional Headquarters
(BC, Yukon)
32560 Simon Avenue, P.O. Box 4500, 2nd Floor
Abbotsford, BC V2T 5L7
Telephone: 1-604-870-2712
Fax: 604-870-6152

VICTIM SERVICES AT CSC
http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/victims-victimes/vvt-vvp-eng.shtml

FEDERAL OMBUDSMAN FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME
http://www.victimsfirst.gc.ca/

Forms for registering for the various services can be accessed through the following links:


Feedback about our Victim Library is greatly appreciated.

Please vofv(at)victimsofviolence(dot)on.ca if you have any comments, or to report errors or omissions.

Last modified: May 13, 2016